1845: Capt. Samuel Mason to Finney, Lee & Co.

Image 6 - Version 2This letter was written by Capt. Samuel Mason (1803-1883) of Wheeling, Virginia [now W. Virginia]. The following obituary was posted in the Intelligencer on 11 April 1883:

Death of Capt. Sam Mason, a Pioneer Steamboatman. Capt. Sam Mason died last evening, at his residence on Twentieth street, at the advanced age of 80 years. He has been in feeble health for several months, and for some days past his death has been expected. The tragic death of his brother, Capt. Jere Mason, three weeks ago, by his own hand, hastened the end. Capt. Mason was a veteran steamboatman, having commenced his life on the river as a deck hand in 1828. While serving in this capacity he learned the river thoroughly, and shortly secured a berth as a first-class pilot. In this line he served till 1835. In this year he and his father-in-law, Captain William Cecil, bought an interest in the steamboat Roanoke, of which Capt. Mason took command. In 1835 or 1837 they built the William Penn, of which Capt. Mason was also master.

In 1839 he took command of another boat built by the firm — the Reliance — and on her made the quickest trip then known from Cincinnati to Wheeling, the run occupying 46 hours. In 1842 or ’43 Captains Cecil and Mason built the Bertrand, and the latter took charge of her. The next boat in the building and ownership of which Capt. Mason had an interest was the Falls City, of the famous Union Line, which was completed in 1852, and in 1854 Capt. Mason and Capt. John List built the steamer St. John, of which Capt. Mason was master and Capt. List clerk. In 1860 Capt. Mason himself built the St. Patrick, and afterward he purchased the Hillman, which was his last boat. He was successful in all his boating ventures, and was held in high esteem and warm regard by his fellow riverman. He acquired a comfortable competence, and shortly after the war retired from active life, and has since been living at leisure in the city, respected by all who knew him. His death, even at such a ripe age, will be generally regretted, and his family have the sympathies of the community in their bereavement.”

The following day, the Intelligencer published the following:

“In the brief history of Capt. Sam Mason, the well known retired river man, who died in this city Tuesday evening, as printed in yesterday’s INTELLIGENCER, no mention was made of the famous steamer Telegraph No 2; this boat was unintentionally overlooked by the person furnishing the information. The fine old boat was a side wheeler, built by Capt. Mason and Capt. John List, during the ’50s, for the Louisville and Pittsburgh trade, and was a phenomenal steamer in her day; she was Capt. Mason’s pride. She was very speedy, and it is said by river men in this city that her time between Louisville and Cincinnati was never beaten but by two boats —  the United States and Abram Adams.”

Image 7

Addressed to Mr. Finney, Care of Messrs. Finney, Lee & Co.,¹ St. Louis, Missouri

Wheeling [Virginia]
January 14th 1845

Mr. Finney, Sir,

Image 6Please write to me and let me know about Captain Fields — whether he is a goin to take the other half of the Bertrand.² It is time for me to know about it so that I can make arrangements about the Clerk. If he takes the one half only, I can at this time sell an interest to a clerk but as he and you did not know but what he would take the whole boat when I was at your place. Mr. Finney, please write to me soon.

The Bertrand is laying at the wharf at Wheeling in good order. There is some ice in the river but none to prevent boats from running. Please let me hear from you.

Yours respectfully, — Sam’l Mason


¹ Believe this was William Finney & John Lee of St. Louis, Missouri.

² Not to be confused with the steamboat Bertrand that sank in the Missouri River in 1865. Tat steamboat was built at Wheeling, W. Va. in 1864.


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